Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that affects the normal function of glands for making moisture. Dryness in the mouth and eye is the typical symptom of the disease. Sjögren’s syndrome is also a rheumatic disorder that can affect your joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. It often accompanies other rheumatic diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Around the whole world, between 400 thousand and 3.1 million adults have Sjögren’s syndrome. It can start at any age, but individuals older than 40 are at higher risk than other age groups. In addition, the disorder is much more common in women. Treatment plans for Sjögren’s syndrome focus on reducing symptoms.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune
disorder. That means, your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s own
cells and tissues. But the exact cause of the disease is still not known. Risk
factors of this condition may include:
Sjögren’s syndrome usually occurs in people
older than 40.
Women are more likely to develop Sjögren’s
syndrome than men.
Certain genes may put people at higher risk
of getting the disorder.
Infection with a particular virus or strain
of bacteria can also trigger the disease.
The symptoms of the Sjögren’s syndrome vary a lot from person to person. The two main symptoms of syndrome are:
- Dry mouth that feels chalky or full of cotton, causing trouble in swallowing and speaking
- Dry eyes, including burning or itching feelings, like full of sand
Other signs and symptoms of Sjögren’s
- Dry skin
- Low fever
- Skin rashes
- Thyroid problems
- Joint and muscle pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Chronic dry cough
- Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs
Sjögren’s syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms vary from individual to individual and can be similar to those caused by other diseases. Basically, doctors will use a combination of methods to make a diagnosis.
First, your doctor will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam to look for typical symptoms. Tests that can help rule out other conditions and pinpoint a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome include:
- Blood tests to check for presence of antibodies common in Sjögren’s syndrome and signs of inflammation
- Eye tests
Your doctor can measure the dryness of your eyes with a test called a Schirmer tear test. He or she will place a small piece of filter paper under your lower eyelid to measure your tear production. An ophthalmologist might also examine the surface of your eyes with a magnifying device called a slit lamp. He or she may place drops in your eye that make it easier to see damage to your cornea.
- Imaging tests, such as sialogram, a special X-ray, to show how much saliva flows into your mouth
- Biopsy, more specifically, a lip biopsy, to detect the presence of clusters of inflammatory cells
Treatment for Sjögren’s syndrome depends on
the affected areas. Most people can manage the dry eye and dry mouth of Sjögren’s
syndrome by using over-the-counter eyedrops and sipping water more frequently.
But some people need medications, or even surgical procedures to live normally.
Medications that may help relieve symptoms include:
- Prescription eyedrops such as cyclosporine (Restasis) or lifitegrast (Xiidra) to relieve moderate to severe dry eyes
- Pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac) to increase the production of saliva, and sometimes tears
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to address arthritis symptoms
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) to help treat systemwide symptoms of the disease
Minor surgery to seal the tear ducts that drain tears from your eyes (punctal occlusion) might help relieve your dry eyes. Collagen or silicone plugs are inserted into the ducts to help preserve your tears.
Keyword: Sjögren’s syndrome.